Multi-awarded British playwright Mike Bartlett (born in 1980 in Oxford) has been described as one of the most original, probing and uncompromising new voices that critically reflect many topical issues of contemporary society. British daily The Stage called him “one of the most intriguing new talents that have emerged recently”.
Bartlett graduated in English and Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds where he acted, directed and wrote plays. After he moved to London he founded the group Apathists with five of his friends. They met once a month, wrote plays and staged them in Theatre 503. In 2005, Bartlett took part in the Old Vic's "New Voices" 24-Hour Plays programme culminating in the performance of his play Comfort which had to be written and performed in 24 hours. His radio play Not Talking, commissioned and broadcast by BBC Radio 3 won the 2006 Tinniswood Award and the 2006 Imison Award.
In May 2007, while holding the position of "writer in residence" at the Royal Court Theatre, his play My Child about a divorced dad desperately vying for access to his son premiered there. His play Artefacts was performed at The Bush Theatre in London in 2008 before a national tour, produced by new writing specialists nabokov. Also in 2008 he adapted his radio play Love Contract for the Royal Court Theatre and re-titled it Contractions. It was staged in an upstairs room sitting thirty people only. In 2009 Bartlett's play Cock premiered at the Royal Court Theatre. Sold out entirely before the opening, it won the 2010 Laurence Olivier Award for outstanding achievement in theatre.
Contractions consists of fourteen short scenes depicting a relationship between a female manager and an employee. The play exposes the issue of increasing invasion by big companies into their employees' privacy. Emma, who has just started working for the company, is asked to attend a meeting with her manager. What appears to be a routine meeting soon turns out to have fatal consequences. Emma is polite, guarded, and able - apparently - to disguise her discomfort at being asked to read aloud a section of her contract. This is the clause forbidding "any relationship, activity or act" between employees "which could be characterised as sexual or romantic". Should there occur such relationships, the employees are required to report them immediately to their bosses. The problem arises when the manager finds out that Emma went for a drink with one of her male co-workers. The manager interprets this as a severe breach of contract.
In fourteen short scenes, written in clipped, sharp and fast-paced dialogue, Bartlett portrays a cruel corporate world in which the company has accorded itself the right to dictate the terms by which co-workers can conduct inter-personal relations. The employees are forced to allow their superiors to interfere with the private matters in order to keep their jobs. As the play progresses we witness the consequences of increasingly cruel and inhuman interference and humiliation in the workplace. The manager is a ruthless, uncompromising and cold-hearted woman totally committed to the company and lacking any sense of empathy. Fearing the loss of her job, Emma gradually becomes a puppet in her hands and gives up her private life entirely. Contractions deals with work relations and mobbing in a frank, challenging and provocative way. In 2006, an American survey revealed that 31 of 80 firms asked staff to declare office love affairs.
Mike Bartlett is a master of fast-paced and razor-sharp dialogue. His sense of dark and absurd humour packed with clever puns grants a light-hearted tone to his acerbity when depicting totally dehumanized working relations.
Translator and Director Jure Novak
Translation Collaborator and Dramaturg Urška Brodar
Set Designer Urša Vidic
Costume Designer Mateja Benedetti
Composers Tibor Mihelič Syed, Polona Janežič
Language Consultant Jože Volk
The Manager Pia Zemljič
Emma Minca Lorenci
Opening 13 September 2013
Performance duration: 1 hour and 10 minutes. No interval.